adult entertainment

Gregory A. Piccionelli's picture

Revolution for Community Standards

Every now and then an event occurs in the adult entertainment industry that is of critical interest to every participant in the business.

On Oct. 28, 2009, such an event occurred.

On that day the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals became the first to adopt the requirement that content distributed via the Internet that is alleged by the government to be obscene must be subject to a national standard and not a local community standard as has been the case since the inception of the commercial web.

The ruling is revolutionary for many reasons, but perhaps most importantly for the average online adult entertainment entrepreneur because the 9th Circuit has taken a giant step in leveling the playing field for adult businesses under constant threat of obscenity prosecution by the government.

Obscenity prosecution, just the thought of it scares the hell out of just about every adult entertainment entrepreneur, and with good reason. Consider the following regarding the potential result of a conviction of violating the federal obscenity laws:

  • Each distributed item found to be obscene potentially carries a penalty of five years in a federal prison, heavy fines and forfeiture of money obtained from the distribution of the items.
  • Distribution of two or more obscene items is a specified predicate act that can trigger simultaneous prosecution under the federal law known as the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, aka RICO, a heavy-hitter law enacted to destroy entire mob operations. Persons convicted of a RICO offense face an additional 10 years in jail plus the forfeiture of all property associated with the enterprise associated with the distribution of the items. Thus, for example, a webmaster running an online business from his home who has been charged with distributing as few as two obscene video clips from one of his sites could face a RICO action that might result in the forfeiture of his home.
  • Monies obtained from distribution of obscene materials are also subject to the federal money laundering statutes. These big boys can send you away for 10 years for domestic money laundering, 20 years if the money is made or is moved offshore.
  • If more than one person is involved in the distribution of allegedly obscene materials, all parties could face an additional charge of conspiracy, which can add up to another 10 years to a convicted defendant's sentence. Thus, if you and a business partner operate an adult membership site depicting two or more sexually explicit images or video clips, you could, in theory, face up to 50 years in prison. That's right 50 years for publishing a couple of photographs! That my friends, is an obscenity much greater than any two photographs could ever be, regardless of what may be depicted in them.

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